Ask Tamar

by Tamar Kay
Copyright © Tamar Kay.

This month I'll address a couple of questions that I was recently asked. If you have questions or issues that you'd like me to explore, please write to me, anonymously if you wish.

Standard disclaimer: this is only my opinion. Consider what I say and see if it makes sense to you, but remember that some answers work for some people and not for others. You must ultimately do what you feel is right for you.

When I meet someone I think might be kinky, how much is okay to say? What's reasonable to ask? How do I make sure that I don't give offense?

Much depends on where and how you meet such a person. For example, if it happens to be a co-worker (depending on where you work), even if he or she dresses in leather and chains and sports a whip on Fridays, you may want to be circumspect before asking questions that will give away your own level of interest.

If you're at RCDC or some other kinky event, it's reasonable to assume some level of interest on the other person's part -- at least a desire to explore. If you are polite, there's nothing wrong with asking someone what his or her interests are.

Of course, such a discussion may be too personal for some (while others may talk your ears off), so you should always gracefully accept a reluctance to discuss such things. Be especially sensitive to newcomers, who may not know what's expected of them. Make sure that they do not feel compelled to go beyond their limits in discussing their interests. It is the responsibility of the more experienced community members to make sure that newcomers are as comfortable as possible.

If you're in a coffee shop and that leather-clad nymph at the other table has you so curious you can't help yourself, try asking about the cause of your suspicion. Sometimes the direct approach works: "nice handcuffs. Ever use them?" Or: "I recognize your leather pride pin. Are you active in the community?"

Remember that the traditional symbols of our community -- collars, chains, leathers, handcuffs, piercings -- have become very popular as fashion items among people who have little or no interest in power exchange or SM. Always be polite and friendly, and be careful of asking questions you're not willing to answer.

I'm going to a play party for the first time. Everyone keeps telling me that I'm not expected to actually do anything. Why do they keep reassuring me? Should I be worried?

If it's a dungeon party given by a responsible member of the community, you have nothing to worry about. Many parties have a "no play the first time" policy that is intended to give you a chance to get familiar with that particular dungeon's rules and atmosphere.

As for the reassurances, lots of newcomers are understandably nervous before their first dungeon party. No matter how much you know, what books you've read, or what you've heard, the first time is the first time, and it can be nerve-wracking, as it was for me. At my first party I felt terribly awkward. Only after I met friendly folks did I begin to relax. Remember that a few kind words can go a long way toward easing a newcomer's fears.

It takes time to assimilate a new culture. If you're new, take that time. Listen and watch. If you have questions, ask them. The basic rules for dungeon parties usually include these: watch scenes from a respectful distance, never intrude in someone else's scene, and don't touch anything -- or anyone -- that isn't yours. Every dungeon varies slightly, so study the rules you're given carefully.

Copyright © Tamar Kay.

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